T. Palomino

Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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    Latest Topics


    Bald of Evil: Questioned

    Nosferatu, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Lex Luthor, Kingpin, Bane, The Penguin, Golum, Voldemort, Thanos, Red Skull, The Night King… They all are villains. And they all are bald. And the list can go on and on. Male baldness is often used in fiction to equate villainy. This works even better when the hero, in opposition, has lustrous and abundant hair (e.g., He-Man vs. Skeletor), since there is an ancient sociocultural belief that hair is a symbol of health, virility and virtue. However, in “Unbreakable” (2000), Shyamalan fools the audience by introducing a villain with a copious afro (Samuel L. Jackson) opposed to a hairless hero (Bruce Willis). The plot twist is undoubtedly perfect. What other examples of this unusual representation can be found in film? What could it mean to challenge the stereotypical trope? Why would it be worth exploring?

    • Nick Fury, Aang, Monkey King (in the Forbidden kingdom), Luke Cage, Luke Hobbs, Vision, Saitama, Ikkaku (Bleach). There is quite a few bald heroes. Even though I approved the topic, I think fact that a characters is bald, is irrelevant to the morality of a character. But, I would be willing to hear an argument on why being bald plays into making a character comes across as villainy . – Blackcat130 1 month ago
    • Following the last comment, I feel like baldness is also often used on 'monk' characters. – AnnieEM 1 month ago

    Bald Women in Film

    There are mainly four reasons women have their heads shaved in films: 1) toughness (“Alien 3”, “G.I. Jane”), 2) illness or scientific experimentation (“Life in a Year”, “Stranger Things”), 3) rebellion, counterculture or villainy (“Mad Max: Fury Road”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”) or 4) mysticism (“Dr. Strange”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales”). Of course, some of these reasons may overlap, but usually bald women in film are depicted as an abnormality, as a product of trauma, as the result of an extraordinary and life-changing event that catapults the plot. Why is getting a buzz cut for a woman a decision that needs to be justified and have a deeper meaning or rationality? Why does society feel the need to point it out publicly, to joke about it? Why people tempt to question the sanity or sexuality of a woman who decides to wear short or no hair? Are women supposed to have long, silky hair in order to be beautiful, feminine or just not weird? But most importantly, how does the film industry handle it? The normalization of western beauty standards might be being reinforced (imposed) by the way bald women are often portrayed in movies.

    • Hair is usually something we associate with beauty and youth. While this is an area that society associates with women more often then men, both are regularly mocked for their lose of hair. It is a reoccurring gag in One Punch man. Often times when a man is balding (as opposed to willingly shaving their head) they are seen as old, unattractive, and infertile. As if something if wrong with them. This topic could easily apply to both gender. – Blackcat130 1 month ago
    • It would also be interesting to extend this exploration into race - often the film industry depicts and utilises Black hair as a symbol in a different way than they do white hair. This is particularly true with women of colour, as we see continuous references to weaves, natural hair, and 'butch/masculine' short-haired WOC stereotypes. – seriouscourt 1 month ago

    Chomping on Apples

    In “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003), the apple that Captain Sparrow bites in front of Barbosa does not serve alimentary purposes. This is done to humiliate the pirate because he is not able to taste any food due to his curse. This apple is, in a way, wasted food after one bite because Barbosa throws it away. However, Barbosa carries an apple with him to eat once the malediction is over. The movie ends with the uneaten (wasted) apple falling from his dying hand, but it appears again in the next movie, “Dead Man’s Chest” (2006), when he finally chomps on it with arrogance. An apple is a cinematic device to show the audience that the eater in question is an overconfident villain, a maverick badass or an arrogant person. Examples of this are Draco Malfoy in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004), Jerry Dandrige in “Fright Night” (2011), or Ajax in “Deadpool” (2016). The trope of the bad guy eating an apple has been pointed out in movie analyses, but it would be more interesting to explore the idea of wasted food, apples being the favorite food characters bite only once and then throw them away. Lex Luthor does it in “Smallville” (S01E02), and also Professor Colan in “Transformers: The Revenge of the Fallen” (2009). Is there a consequential reason for this beyond the mere trope?

    • Hi T. Palomino--I think this is a super interesting topic that I had never considered before, thank you for bringing it up! The first two stories that come to mind for me with characters biting apples in stories are actually of the victim (supposedly) biting the apple rather than the villain: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and Snow White in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." In both of these cases, rather than the villain or the arrogant character biting into an apple, the story has the "innocent character" doing so. Also in these two stories, the apple itself is the poison, although both are delivered by a villain as well (the Evil Queen and Satan in the form of a snake). For Snow White, the apple literally poisons her, as offered by the Evil Queen in disguise and for Adam and Eve, biting the apple from the tree of All Knowledge of Good and Evil, gives them knowledge that causes a rift between them and God, and ultimately leads to their exile from the Garden of Eden. I wonder if moving beyond these stories where the apple itself was a device for evil led to the apple-biting phenomenon you brought up, where the apple is no longer evil but instead the person biting it. I hope this helps with your writing! – jamiiiiiiierose 2 months ago
    • It could be intriguing to inquire as to why an apple was chosen above anything else, any other fruit... Is there any historical, philosophical, moral, or other justification for this? Or is it only a practical issue in relation to other fruits, such as bananas? Also, it may be a good idea to think about the stories behind the "Apple Inc." Logo (An apple with one bite taken out of it.) Is there anything in the designer or film directors' imagination background that they have in common? – Samer Darwich 2 months ago

    The Portrayal of PhDs in the MCU

    In Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Bruce Banner declares he has seven PhD degrees. In episode 7 of What If…? (2021), Jane Foster says she is “an astrophysicist with multiple PhDs.” With such statements, both characters try to assert their worth as scientists in contrast to superheroes with superpowers. However, holding multiple PhDs would be more of an educational disorder rather than a sign of academic achievement. PhD degrees are not medals or trophies that can be accumulated to show high intellect (the logic of “the more you have, the smarter you are” does not apply here). In a way, these films portray main characters whose value resides either in their intellectual capacity or their physical strength –climatically, in Avengers: Endgame (2019), we can see how Dr. Banner is able “to put the brains and brawn together.” Clearly, the MCU does not understand how academia and higher education work because imagining a scientist with seven PhDs is a more ridiculous idea than a super soldier or a man who can fly. What does this tell us about the concept of heroism that the MCU tries to sell? Is intelligence, in the form of a PhD degree, really another gimmick (like a suit of armor or a magic hammer) that can give proof of one’s value in the realm of superhero films? Why, in summation, are PhD holders so badly represented in superhero movies?

    • A good point. I remember that statement about seven PhDs. How? That would take an incredible amount of time. When I heard that I assumed less-than-credible programs considering the amount of effort that goes into a PhD--particularly the dissertation. I was thinking of the seventeen courses for my MA and PhD, then two foreign languages (I used Statistics for one), followed by written and oral comprehensive exams, then a dissertation just under 500 pages, followed by an oral defense of it. Sure, superheroes can do it all. – Joseph Cernik 7 months ago
    • Interesting topic. We may have to be a little bit prudent when writing this issue... I mean not to go to another extreme denying every positive indication about the person who has many Ph.D.s. For instance, this may inform us a lot of things about him: About the knowledge that that person can deal with - About the potential that he has; every Ph.D. takes a lot of effort and time - About his state of mind; he may be someone who adores learning new things and not to learn things only passively but rather with an active contribution because a Ph.D. is not just about learning what is already there but contributing somehow in revealing new things in the domain - about his ability to change and adapt and that his status was never for him the end of the story - let's consider that we are more and more in an age that needs multidisciplinary talents, in terms of problem-solving, creativity, etc... – Samer Darwich 7 months ago

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    Latest Comments

    Citation needed.

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